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Bagatelle frontman and Eurovision star Liam Reilly dies aged 65


Liam died on new Year’s Day (Picture: Facebook)

Bagatelle frontman Liam Reilly has died aged 65.

Reilly was one of the most celebrated singer-songwriters in Irish music, having penned classics such as Summer In Dublin. 

The sad news was confirmed by his family, who stated that he died suddenly but peacefully at home.

A statement read: ‘We know that his many friends and countless fans around the world will share in our grief as we mourn his loss, but celebrate the extraordinary talent of the man whose songs meant so much to so many.’

His cause of death has yet to be confirmed.

Singer-songwriter Gerry Madigan wrote on Facebook: ‘Today I got the sad news from my old friend Wally McConville that Liam Reilly passed away today. Liam was one of the founding members (along with Wally) of Bagatelle, and writer/composer of the massive hit single, “Summer In Dublin”.

‘I can recall vividly the day in 1980 when I pitched Bagatelle with their song, Summer In Dublin, to Adrian Cronin, producer of RTE’s The Late Late Show. I remember that night in the Green Room as they launched that single on the show – the last show of that current season with Foster and Allen as the other music guest. And the rest is history. The band enjoyed phenomenal success for the next 40 years, and Liam gained global recognition as a songwriter.

‘I was only talking with him a few weeks ago and commiserated on the fact that he was missing the opportunity to perform at live gigs, due to the lockdown restrictions and closures of so many venues. 

‘The music industry has lost another wonderful talent, and Ireland has lost one of its greatest songwriters. He gave the world such amazing songs, shared his talent generously, and those songs and his music will go on forever – the music never dies.’

Journalist James Rogers: ‘Sad news breaking tonight about the death of Bagatelle frontman Liam Reilly. One of Ireland’s greatest songwriters, he leaves an unbelievable legacy of songs. 

‘Only set to turn 66 on Jan 29th, he has been taken far too soon. Hopefully he gets remembered in Dundalk as he should.’

Radio presenter PJ Coogan tweeted: ‘The great Liam Reilly has passed away. Singer, songwriter, composer, entertainer, lovable rogue & I’m very proud to say, friend. Rest in Peace, Maestro.’

Reilly, born in Dundalk in Ireland, formed Bagatelle along with Wally McConville in 1978, with bassist Ken Doyle and guitarist John O’Brien joining the group.

The band gained huge success in Ireland with songs including Second Violin and Summer In Dublin, which has been covered by many artists. 

Speaking about the latter to author Brian Kennedy for the band biography That Summer in Dublin, Reilly said: ‘I remember I went to see The Boomtown Rats in Moran’s Hotel and the support act was this guy singing a Bob Seger song Rock & Roll Never Forgets. 

‘The next thing I’m walking up Grafton Street, that’s when the buses could come down Grafton Street, with Seger’s song embedded in my brain. I just couldn’t stop singing it, so much so that I nearly got creamed by an oncoming bus – the driver abused me from the hilt from his window. 

‘At the time I was living in number 2 Leeson Street. Shortly after that I got a 46a with my guitar in hand. I remember sitting down, minding my own business when I saw this drunk guy in front of me.  He was telling me in his infinite wisdom how I should get rich.

‘I got home with all the thoughts of the day in my mind and wrote Summer In Dublin in about two hours. Every word of the song is autobiographical and completely true.”

Bagatelle were a big influence on Bono and U2, and shared the stage in Bob Marley, Van Morrison, U2, Thin Lizzy, Don McLean and The Pogues.

After breaking up for a period, Bagatelle reformed in 1992 and kept touring until they announced their final shows in 2016. However, despite being billed as farewell gigs, the latest line-up of Bagatelle, including Reilly, had continued touring up until this year, when the pandemic cancelled many of their gigs.

Liam was one of the founding members of Bagatelle (Picture: Facebook)

As a solo artist, Reilly achieved fame amongst Eurovision fans when he represented Ireland at the 1990 contest, with the song Somewhere In Europe.

At the contest in Zagreb, Reilly came joint second with French entry Joëlle Ursull, with France and Ireland losing out to Italy’s entry Insieme: 1992 by Toto Cutugno.

Reilly returned to compose Ireland’s Eurovision entry in 1991, writing Could It Be That I’m In Love, performed by Kim Jackson; the song came 10th. 


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